Gibson's 4 TDs power IC Catholic Prep to 7th straight quarterfinal appearance
Sevens were wild in a windy Elmhurst on Saturday afternoon.
With Denzell Gibson scoring four touchdowns, IC Catholic Prep reached the state quarterfinals for the seventh consecutive season with a 42-14 Class 3A second-round win over Stillman Valley.
The Knights (10-1), who have won three state championships during this stretch, advance to travel to undefeated Princeton in Class 3A.
"That says a lot (about our program)," said Gibson, who wears number 7. "A lot of people look at us as the underdogs but we have just as many skilled players and elite players as any top team in the state.
"This is a school of grinding, of greatness, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
ICCP pulled away late after nursing a one-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Gibson scored on a 20-yard screen pass from Dennis Mandala a little over a minute into the period and later added a 20-yard touchdown run.
Gibson, a senior who finished with 192 yards on 19 carries, had given the Knights a 15-14 lead with a four-yard score just before halftime after Stillman Valley (9-2) rattled off 14 unanswered points.
He also found the end zone on a one-yard run in the first quarter.
"I couldn't do it without the other 10 guys," Gibson said. "Those are my brothers and they are working just as hard as I am to get the win. All the credit to them. We couldn't do a lot with the wind so we knew we had to grind it out.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game, Stillman Valley is a great program. They know what it takes to get a state championship, they have five state titles like us. And we knew they wanted it just as much as we did. So we had to execute our game plan and we were able to come out with a win."
Malik Gray added a pair of rushing touchdowns in the fourth, from one and 22-yards out. The Knights' defense also did its part, holding the Cardinals, who attempted just two passes, to one first down over the final 24 minutes.
"Our coaches all week preached to do our job and play together," said Jayden Sutton, who plays on the line on both sides of the ball. "Our coaches do a great job putting us in a position to succeed. And we play for each other.
"This is really big. All year we've been playing together, playing for each other. We know how good we can be. Coach always says, it's us versus us. If we keep that mentality, nobody can stop us."
Kaleb Ellis had an interception for ICCP, which notched its third playoff victory over Stillman Valley since 2018. The win also marked the 100th of head coach Bill Krefft's career.
"It's a credit to the kids," said Krefft, who didn't know he was a win short of that milestone going in, "though we don't really talk about the quarterfinals here. It is just the next game. It's more about being honored to have another game together. Having these extra games with the kids means everything to me."
Krefft was proud of how his team overcame adversity in tough conditions against a storied program.
"We say, the road to easy street always goes through the sewers," Krefft said. "Whether it's the weather -- the wind and the rain is going to happen around here at some point -- or the opponent, you are going to face adversity and it's how you respond.
"Stillman Valley is a great football team. They have a dominant offensive line, they were averaging 45 points a game and they have a really good defense. When a team like that puts it on you, you discover who you are. When we went into the locker room at halftime, nobody wavered. We didn't make a lot of adjustments, it was just go out and do things better than we've been doing them."